Vanishing Tuvalu: Can Metaverse Save It?

Virtual cities and travel destinations were created in the Metaverse, starting with places like Second Life and Decentraland. But the South Pacific state of Tuvalu is taking a unique approach of replicating itself as a digital twin.

Other cities and nations are doing the same. Seoul and the Caribbean state of Barbados use the metaverse to provide administrative and consular services, but Tuvalu’s rationale is unique.

For Tuvalu, with a population of just 12,000, his Metaverse project is an existential survival project. Because the tiny archipelago in the South Pacific is one of the countries most threatened by climate change. Up to 40% of the capital’s districts are submerged at high tide.

The nine islands and low-lying atolls that make up Tuvalu have the highest elevation at just 4 meters above sea level. A slight rise in sea level will inundate a significant portion of Tuvalu, inundating agricultural land and villages.

First digital nation

One of Tuvalu’s responses to this threat was digital. At the UN COP27 conference in Egypt last November, the country’s foreign minister unveiled a digital replica of one of his country’s islands. The idea is to prevent all physical traces of Tuvalu from disappearing beneath the rising oceans by relocating them to the cloud.

“As our country disappears, we have no choice but to become the world’s first digital nation,” he said at the conference.

It will also be interactive. People can visit Tuvalu in the Metaverse and experience it through augmented and virtual reality.

“As our country disappears, we have no choice but to become the world’s first digital nation.”

Tuvaluan Foreign Minister Simon Kofe recently told public broadcaster ABC the plan is for the entire nation to go online.

“If in the future we envision Tuvaluans scattered all over the world, we want to have a framework that will ensure that the government can continue to function, coordinate itself and the people, manage our resources, our tuna industry, etc. our domain name” , Kofe told ABC.

The Tuvalu experience differs from the virtual properties created on Metaversum platforms like Decentraland, which are more about the real estate boom and bust cycle.

On Decentraland, the land was initially sold for $20 per lot, but prices have now increased by around $3,500.

In 2021, a 116-parcel digital property in Decentraland was sold for a record €2.49 million in cryptocurrency. Overall, Decentraland posted revenue of $571 million in 2021 and is expected to surpass $1 billion in 2022.

preserve sovereignty

However, the Tuvalu project is more about national survival than real estate values. The idea is that digital Tuvalu will ensure that it maintains its sovereignty and continues to exist even if the whole nation sinks under the wave.

“So there are still citizens who can vote, leaders can be elected to office, there can still be a parliamentary cabinet,” Kofe said.

The question of Tuvalu’s sovereignty is also controversial. The government wants Tuvalu to continue to be recognized by the international community even though the country is completely under water. She wants sea boundaries to be respected and, perhaps most importantly, rights to the resources that are respected.

So far, seven governments have agreed to continue recognizing a purely digital Tuvalu, but this has yet to be challenged and examined through the channels of international law.

Foreign Minister Kofe admits that the metaverse is not an “easy alternative”. The reason for this is to try to draw attention to the country’s plight and to ask what might happen if it completely disappeared under the waves.

The digital Tuvalu project raises essential questions beyond climate change. Can a nation exist without its country? Can sovereignty and a sense of homeland continue to exist digitally when the physical version disappears? How can rights and vital economic rights be respected when a nation is struck by a natural disaster of its own making?

For the first time, digital twins offer a solution, albeit imperfect, to some of these challenges.

Lachlan Colquhoun is Australia and New Zealand correspondent for CDOTrends and NextGenConnectivity editor. He remains fascinated by how companies use digital technology to reinvent themselves to solve existing problems and transform their entire business models. You can reach him at (email protected).

Credit: iStockphoto/Dmitry Malov

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *